Icon wines at The Sampler
16 very expensive fine wines on the sampling machines at UK wine merchant The Sampler

Each Christmas, The Sampler puts some rather special wines on their sampling machines at both the South Kensington and Islington branches. I visited both on Friday and tasted all the wines. These are my notes on the December 2014 offerings. (Notes from previous years are also quite fun to read, and are linked at the bottom.)

You can see which wines are on tasting at www.thesampler.co.uk/store/ , but if you want the most up-to-date information, get on their email list.

Domaine de la Romanée Conti La Tâche 1989 Burgundy, France
Warm, sweetly aromatic nose with some herbs and notes of earth and iodine. Showing some development. The palate is sweetly fruited with herbs, cherries and strawberries but there’s also quite a bit of earthy development: more than you might expect. Still has some elegance. 91/100 (£2300)
Domaine Ponsot Griotte Chambertin Grand Cru 1999 Burgundy, France
Smoothly textured with warm, sweet, mellow cherry fruits. Smooth and fine with a really harmonious personality. Quite ripe but very stylish. 94/100 (£210)
Château Latour 1955 Bordeaux, France
Warm, harmonious nose of cherries, leather and earth with a savoury twist to the sweet fruit. The palate still has lots of fruit: there are sweet berries and red cherries, plus a thrilling elegance. Incredible mouthfeel with fine grained, chalky tannins, as well as subtle spice. Taut and correct, this is a sensational bottle. 97/100

(not the best ever label!)

Clos St Jean Deus ex Machina Châteauneuf du Pape 2006 Southern Rhône, France
Warm, sweet and enticity with sweet, slightly malty liqueur-like berry fruits. Super-smooth palate is very ripe with great concentration and luch-textured cherry and berry fruits. A big, ripe wine but it has some harmony. 93/100 (£250)
Ornellaia 1997 Tuscany, Italy
I didn’t want to like this wine as much as I did, because I am not a fan of super-Tuscans. It has a perfumed nose of ripe blackcurrant fruit with a chalky, mineral edge. It’s very classic and enticing. The palate is superbly elegant and shows smooth, ripe, red berry and cherry fruit with some sweet blackcurrant notes. Ripe yet elegant and just beautiful. 97/100 (£215)

Marques de Murrieta Castillo Ygay Reserva Especial 1942 Rioja, Spain
They don’t make them like this any more. This spent 40 years in barrel. Quite a full colour with a very warm, ripe, sweet nose with a hint of malt and some sweet vanilla and coconut, as well as red cherry fruit. The palate still has some fresh red fruit with a savoury, mineral edge and a super-long finish. There are also some lively citrus peel notes. An amazing wine. 97/100


Screaming Eagle 2001 Napa Valley, California
Luscious, sweet, ripe blackcurrant and blackberry nose with some fresh floral notes. Sweet, ripe, berry fruits palate with a spicy edge and some tannic grip. Modern but developing nicely. A tiny bit angular on the finish. 92/100 (£2200)
Penfolds Grange 1989 South Australia
Fresh and lively with some minty notes and a hint of iodine, as well as bright berry fruits. There’s a liqueur-like richness to the fruit, and some grippy tannins. Nothing to get excited about, a solid Aussie red. 91/100
Antonin Rodet Richebourg Grand Cru 1978 Burgundy, France
Amazingly floral nose with sweet, enticing red cherry and plum fruit, as well as some herbs. Nicely textured, this is detailed and multidimensional with red cherries, plums and spice. Still has a red fruit core. Lovely. 95/100 (£200)
Domaine de la Romanée Conti Corton Grand Cru 2011 Burgundy, France
Lovely tense cherry and plum fruit. Quite grippy and structured with some oak evident. Very linear and youthful with nice raspberry and cherry fruit. Good grip. Youthful and intense. 94/100 (£500)
Château Latour 1964 Bordeaux, France
This is the famous vintage where Latour managed to pick just before the rains that ruined things for practically everyone else. This is still lovely and fresh with black cherries and blackberries to the fore. It’s showing a bit of maturity on the nose but it’s fresher on the palate with real elegance, a full body and tannic black cherry and plum fruit. Nice depth. 94/100
Château Margaux 1990 Bordeaux, France
A fabulous Margaux. Warm, smooth, sweet nose with some evolution and hints of earth and spice, as well as some tannic grip. There’s real elegance here with a nice tension between the sweet fruit and the edges. Beautifully poised. 96/100

Henschke Hill of Grace 1998 Barossa, Australia
Sweetly elegant with notes of leather, herbs and tar and a slightly bitter note on the finish. Sweet raspberry and black cherry fruit with some forest floor notes. 93/100


Penfolds Grange 1988 South Australia
Rich, ripe, tarry and dense. This is a bold wine. It’s a beast, even, with concentrated sweet berry fruits, lively spiciness and grippy tannins. It has a creamy finish. 92/100
Jaboulet Hermitage La Chapelle 1985 Northern Rhône, France
Complex, evolved spicy nose with some age evident, but the palate is fabulous: it’s elegant with iodine, spice, meat and some slightly feral notes, as well as red cherry fruit. Fresh finish, so nicely poised. 95/100
Ridge Montebello 1995 California
Dense and still youthful with lively spicy fruit and nice grip. Tarry, spicy, tannic black fruits here with a firm, intense, drying finish. A big wine with lots going on, but hasn’t really resolved yet. 93/100

See also:

The Sampler Icon tasting 2011
The sampler Icon tasting 2012
The Sampler Icon tasting 2013
The sampler Icon tasting 2013

Wines tasted 12/14  
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